Editor's Note: To supplement our action sports employment site, The Job Board, we're launching a new column, Career Coach, with tips from top recruiters and human resource professionals from across the industry.
You’ve gotten your foot in the door for a great job opportunity, now it’s time for your first interview. Successful candidates always come prepared by doing their homework. We caught up with Skullcandy Recruiter Shaunna Keller for her tips on preparing for and shining at your interview to turn the opportunity into a job offer.
Be an expert on YOU.
Success! You've landed an interview. That means they like what they see on paper and they want to see if you live up to it in person. Review your résumé and reflect on your work history, over and over again. What are your strongest skills? How have you demonstrated success? What positive feedback have you recently received from your coworkers or boss? Dig into all the crevices of your work experience so you are an absolute expert on what you bring to the table. Then, you'll head into the interview with a power-list of skills and accomplishments that you're proud of.
You've got the skills? Prove it.
Steer clear of conveying your qualifications as "opinion skills." A skill is subjective until you can prove it. To stand out, you need to show your skills and back them up with experience and foundation. An example of an opinion skill might be, "I have great time management skills." Instead, try transforming this into a statement that demonstrates your skill, "I have great time management skills because I'm an ace at keeping myself organized with Outlook, to-do lists and agendas. I'm always prepared and ready to go for my next appointment because I've always planned accordingly."
Be an expert on THEM.
Do your research and do it well. Dig in; don't be afraid to uncover all of the juicy details. Are they privately held or publically traded? How many employees do they have? What's the start up story, how long have they been around? It's not likely all or even any of these questions will be asked of you in an interview, but this information can help you tailor your skills and ask the right questions. Are you applying to work at a company that has recently gone public? Great. If you have experience, now you know to bring it up. If you don't have experience, be careful using this information to "fluff" conversation. For example, "I'm really interested in working for a public company." That's great if you are, but remember, you are selling yourself and your skills. How about reworking it to reveal you've done your homework? "It's crazy to think that your company was started less than five years ago and you already went public, how has the work environment changed since that happened?" You can learn about the company and show you know what's going on in their world.
It seems so simple, but for so many interviewees, this is where they fall short. Pay attention to the question being asked so you're answering it in the correct context. Some questions may seem vague, "How do you manageryour time?" However, there is always context to go along with these seemingly vague questions, pay attention! It may precede, directly follow or happen at another seemingly unimportant moment in the interview. For example, right before the question above, your interviewer may have made the following comment, "Around here, even when things are chaotic and hectic, it's really important to be on time for meetings." Right there, that's it. They have just given you the context you were seeking. They aren't asking how you perform all your tasks in any given day, or how you organize your documents; they want to know how you ensure you are on time for meetings.
Ask Compelling Questions.
Convey interest, the right way. A big thing many candidates forget when heading into an interview is that they aren't the only ones getting interviewed. An interview is just as much about the individual as it is about the employer. You need to find out if this job fits for you too. It has to be a mutually beneficial relationship for it to be the right fit. That means you need to ask questions! With the right questions, your interest will be apparent and you wont even have to say, "I really want this job." The right question might look like something like this, "It's really important for me to know what's expected of me, how do you (hiring manager) typically communicate duties and expectations to your employees?" Create your "must" ask list of questions prior to your interview, and develop some on the fly that are relevant to the conversation you've had during your interview. Examples of non-compelling topics for your first interview include, benefits, vacation and salary - steer clear if you don't want to send the wrong message.
Recruiters and hiring managers love to talk about the job, their company and their high hopes for the position that you are interviewing for. Sometimes, employers will forget that you’re there to talk about you, because they are so passionate about finding the right person. Let them talk, but when they put the ball in your court and it's your time to speak, ace it. The worst thing you can do in this situation is become dormant during the conversation - when there is a break in the action, speak up. Demonstrate why you would be the best fit for the job, how you connect with their company and how you too, have high hopes for yourself in this position.
Scout things out.
If you have an in-person interview somewhere you've never been before, take a test run. Drive there before your interview and familiarize yourself with the area, how long it takes you to get there, expected traffic, etc. If you have a Skype interview, set it up in advance! Turn your computer on, ensure you are connected to the internet, etc. Get everything ready to go at least 10 minutes before so you aren't fumbling around when your interview rolls around. Overcoming these small stresses before the big interview will help you focus and bring your A-game.